Young men tend to be idiots. As they enter college, the world beckons to them and in their arrogance they tend to look down upon what is near them. This is especially true of ‘educated’ Indians. I know because the above description applies to me, to my college days.
I remember my girlfriend telling me about Aradhana, the hit movie that had been launched. And I remember scoffing at her taste and at Hindi films in general. I was so arrogant in my belief in intellectualism that I was utterly stupid.
Well, America cured me of that stupidity. I fell in love with classic Bollywood when I watched “Chori Chori”, the Raj Kapoor classic in our University auditorium. That began my love affair with the 1960s golden era of Bollywood. I was already a fan of Amitabh’s intensity, a fan of Trishul and Deewar.
It took another decade of mellowing before one day, all of sudden, I understood the magic of Rajesh Khanna, the simple magic of an ordinary romantic. Now I have a collection of Rajesh Khanna movies. His songs are my surest cure for gloom. Even his whimsical songs, the simple moves of an ordinary man, make me see at the world as bright and beautiful. The two below are what I mean, not his greatest or even his most popular but two that bring joy, a sheer burst of happiness.
Rajesh Khanna passed away this week in Mumbai. The entire country and the entire Indian diaspora paid tributes. The stars and the leaders did it with words and us simple folk did it by listening to his songs.
In his appeal, Rajesh Khanna was unlike any other superstar, before or after him. Shah Rukh Khan recognized his incredible fan appeal in a recent Bollywood Awards function. He described how girls married themselves to photographs of Rajesh Khanna, cutting their fingers and applying the blood as sindoor.
Just listen to his leading co-stars describe his magic:
Sharmila Tagore, his co-star in Aradhana, the film that made Rajesh Khanna the superstar:
- I was first-hand witness to the hysteria he had caused. When we did our first film, Aradhana together, I had no idea what was to unfold. Suddenly, it got impossible to walk from my makeup room to the set without getting mobbed. The entire area used to be crammed with girls who’d fall all over him. I hadn’t, and haven’t witnessed anything like it.
Every song of Aradhana was a huge hit and I love them all. Below is one of my favorites and a song from another hit film of the pair.
Asha Parekh starred with Rajesh Khanna in Baharon Ke Sapne in his pre-Aradhana days. The film has lovely songs. But as she relates, everything was different in their next film:
- By the time, we did our second film, Kati Patang, everything had changed. He was a superstar, the kind Indian cinema hasn’t witnessed. Girls would run after him, tear his clothes, kiss his car, stand outside his bungalow for a darshan for hours. I thought it was fairly entertaining.
- I remember this time we were shooting the song, Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho balma for Kati Patang in Nainital by a lake, and we had to stop because of the hordes that had gathered to see him. By the time we did Aan Milo Sajna, success had brought him confidence. He talked more, was far more expressive and fun. The song, Achcha to hum chalte hain in Aan Milo Sajna, was again hell to shoot because we wanted to capture the sunset, and light was playing hide and-seek. But Kaka was patient. He loved shooting songs.
The two songs mentioned by Ms. Parekh are so different and so lovely:
No co-star did as many successful films with Rajesh Khanna as Mumtaz.
- My jodi with Rajesh Khanna was lucky. We never suffered a flop. Our last film together, Aaina, didn’t click but it was just a guest appearance for him. Do Raaste, our first film together was a big hit. The songs did it. Bindiya chamkegi and Chhup gaye saare nazaare became very popular. We did a whole lot of films after that right until I got married and quit the industry. That allowed me the chance to interact with him fairly closely. Shaadi mein jaise sit
aare milaaye jaate hain, hum donon ki jodi ke sitaare milte the. Our onscreen pair seemed blessed by divinity.
Below are 4 of our my favorites:
And I haven’t even mentioned his great role in Anand, a role that embodies his optimism despite what he may be suffering. So many people consider Anand to be his greatest film.
The sun of his physical life has finally set but Rajesh Khanna lives for ever in our hearts, in our memories and in his great gifts to us, his movies.
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